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Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. VI - Page 42« Previous | Next »

(Testimony of Dr. Charles Rufus Baxter)

part of which was on the table and made a rather massive blood. loss mixed with it and around it.
Mr. SPECTER. Did you notice any bullet hole below that large opening at the top of the head?
Dr. BAXTER. No; I personally did not.
Mr. SPECTER. Will you describe with as much particularity as you can the wound which you noticed on the President's neck?
Dr. BAXTER. The wound on the neck was approximately an inch and a haft above the manubrium of the sternum, the sternal notch. This wound was in my estimation, 4 to 5 mm. in widest diameter and was a spherical wound. The edges of it--the size of the wound is measured by the hole plus the damaged skin around the area, so that it was a very small wound. And, it was directly in the midline. Now, this wound was excised in the performance of the tracheotomy and on the entery into the deeper tissues of the neck, there was considerable contusion of the muscles of the anterior neck and a moderate amount of bleeding around the trachea. The trachea was deviated slightly, I believe, to the left.
Our tracheotomy incision was made in the second tracheal ring which was immediately above the area of damage where we thought the damaged area of the trachea was, which we did not dissect out, but once the endotracheal tube was placed, the tracheotomy tube was placed into the trachea, it was below this tear in the trachea, and gave us good control or perfect control of respiration.
Mr. SPECTER. Were the characteristics of the wound on the neck sufficient to enable you to form an opinion with reasonable medical certainty as to what was the cause of the hole?
Dr. BAXTER. Well, the wound was, I think, compatible with a gunshot wound. It did not appear to be a jagged wound such as one would expect with a very high velocity rifle bullet. We could not determine, or did not determine at that time whether this represented an entry or an exit wound. Judging from the caliber of the rifle that we later found or become acquainted with, this would more resemble a wound of entry. However, due to the density of the tissues of the neck and depending upon what a bullet of such caliber would pass through, the tissues that it would pass through on the way to the neck, I think that the wound could well represent either exit or entry wound.
Mr. SPECTER. Assuming some factors in addition to those which you personally observed, Dr. Baxter, what would your opinion be if these additional facts were present: First, the President had a bullet wound of entry on the right posterior thorax just above the upper border of the Scapula with the wound measuring 7 by 4 mm. in oval shape, being 14 cm. from the tip of the right acromion process and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid process--assume this is the set of facts, that the wound Just described was caused by a 6.5 mm bullet shot from approximately 160 to 250 feet away from the President, from a weapon having a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,000 feet per second, assuming as a third factor that the bullet passed through the President's body, going in between the strap muscles of the shoulder without violating the pleura space and exited at a point in the midline of the neck, would the hole which you saw on the President's throat be consistent with an exit point, assuming the factors which I have Just given to you?
Dr. BAXTER. Although it would be unusual for a high velocity missile of this type to cause a wound as you have described, the passage through tissue planes of this density could have well resulted in the sequence which you outline; namely, that the anterior wound does represent a wound of exit.
Mr. SPECTER. What would be the considerations which, in your mind, would make it, as you characterized it, unlikely?
Dr. BAXTER. It would be unlikely because the damage that the bullet would create would be---first its speed would create a shock wave which would damage a larger number of tissues, as in its path, it would tend to strike, or usually would strike, tissues of greater density than this particular missile did and would then begin to tumble and would create larger jagged--the further it went, the more jagged would be the damage that it created; so that ordinarily there would have been a rather large wound of exit.

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